A Windjammer Cruise

A windjammer Cruise - What it is & What it isn't

For centuries the shipping of goods was reliant on you guessed it - wind powered ships!   Every culture has had its own particular design, from the barges of ancient Egypt to the cross Atlantic clipper ships, all based on regional waterways and geographic needs.  In the 1800's the United States depended on thousands of coasting schooners to transport goods from point to point along our coasts.  Cargos ranged from granite & lumber to bales of hay and everything in between.  If it needed to be moved the coasters were on the job.  During the mid to late 1800's the country was growing inward and the industrial revolution flourished.  As infrastructures improved rail, steam power and roads began to erode the need for these hard working wind powered vessels.

Coasting schooners 1880
Coasting Schooners Awaiting Cargo Boston Harbor circa 1890

By the early 1900's in the more urban areas of our country, cargo for the coasters was getting harder and harder to find.  Many migrated north to Maine where our jagged coast line, thousands of islands and lack of infrastructure made them still a viable method of transportation. 

Schooner Grace Bailey & Mercantile loading caargo
         Cargo Days  Schooner Grace Bailey  Monhegan  & Schooner Mercantile Frenchboro          

By the 1930's the fruits of the industrial revolution had found their way to our state and the coasters were again becoming obsolete. 

Enamored by these graceful schooners and their disappearing way of life our founder, Frank Swift, set out to preserve this piece of history for future generations.  Beginning with a small leased coasting schooner he offered his "Windjammer Cruises" along the coast of Maine to adventuresome travelers, inviting them to participate in the actual sailing of the vessel.  In 1936 after making minor changes to accommodate passengers such as installing bunks where once there were cargo holds, this new and unique vacation opportunity was launched and the rest is history.

Maine Windjammer Cruises Passengers at the Helm
                  Maine Windjammer Cruises Passengers at the Helm - circa1938 & 1995

For the past 81 years Maine Windjammer Cruises® has remained true to our founders vision of preserving not only our coasting schooners but a bygone way of life. We sail as they did in the early days, using a wood burning stove for cooking, food is refrigerated in ice boxes; sails are heavy canvas, hemp rigging, compass and charts for navigation and original mechanical winches for raising the 300-400 pound anchor.  

Schooner Mercantile Anchor Winch

Sails are raised with manpower and the schooners are propelled by the wind.  There is no set itinerary so each day of a windjammer cruise is a new adventure following the winds and tides as we explore the beautiful coast of Maine.

As in years gone by, the cook is still a key crew member. Rising early and going to bed late, the cook keeps all on board well supplied with mouthwatering meals, snacks, freshly baked breads and tasty desserts, all prepared from scratch and cooked on the cozy wood burning stove in the galley.  In many ways the galley is the heart of the ship.  More than a place to cook and eat, it serves as a place to grab a cup of hot coffee, gather for quiet conversations, a game of cards or just curl up with a good book. 

Grace bailey Galley
The cook is a valued crew member

Those considering sailing on our historic schooners for the first time have many questions about accommodation and amenities. The simple answer is, "You will have what you need.". They ask about outlets in the cabins, charging cell phones and internet availability.  All of these require electricity and that requires generators. The equipment and the fuel tanks to run them would occupy a large amount of space and their operation creates noise and fumes from the fuel to run them.  Aside from distracting from the core experience, this would be somewhat impractical since cell phone and internet connection signals are spotty at best while sailing.  With the aid of a battery, we are able to accommodate medical devices such as CPAPs.

The addition of mechanical systems would move us further away from the experience which we have committed to preserve.  In order to maintain the authenticity of the early days of sail we have made only minimal concessions to our modern times. There are now private cabins, mechanical marine heads, a fresh hot water shower with water heated by the wood burning stove and a bank of batteries to provide power for overhead lights in cabins and companionways below deck.

The world has changed so much since the heyday of tall sailing ships. Our passengers who are used to the conveniences of our day to day lives and being connected to the entire world at all times are pleasantly surprised at the freedom that comes from letting it go and living in the moment - a beautiful and less complicated moment with time to savor the unspoiled vistas of over a thousand islands, brilliant star filled skies or the full moon marking its path across the waters of your serene anchorage.

Moon on Penobscot Bay

If you require big cruise ship amenities, you won't find them here.  If  you forego the luxury and immerse yourself in history as you sail one of the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world, you will be pleasantly surprised and inspired.  In short, a Maine Windjammer Cruise is an amazing passage to a time gone by.  

The Schooners Grace Bailey & Mercantile are two of only five remaining authentic two masted coasting schooners left in the world.  We are proud to maintain their history as we "Keep the Tradition Alive".